Between the pedigree of the studio and perceived change of allegiances from the home of their flagship franchise on Xbox consoles to Sony consoles, Bungie had probably set the bar high enough before pre-release footage and marketing was even factored in. September 9th, 2014, the next major Intellectual Property (IP) from Bungie, developer of the critically acclaimed Halo games, released. Titled Destiny, it released worldwide with expectations best illustrated by the tagline of the series to this day: Become Legend.
It was spectacularly less than. Technically sound but rife with intrinsic issues Bungie would address over the next three years of their ’10 Year Plan’ for the franchise, Destiny was the game many loved but many, many more were left with a bad taste in their mouth from. Fast forward to September 5th, 2017 – the release of the official sequel, Destiny 2. I’ve returned to the game with each expansion for one reason or another but this was the one occasion where I put my foot down – if Destiny 2 wasn’t good enough to stand on its own, I wasn’t coming back. And so, I played – and if I had to leave you with two words from a less-than-pleased player of the original game that sums up my feelings of Destiny 2 – Apology Accepted.
Let me be more concrete. Destiny 2 is first-and-foremost a First-Person Shooter (FPS) game concerned with grounding its gameplay in Role Playing Game (RPG) elements. As in Destiny, players are a Guardian, one champion of many of a moon-like entity sat just above the Earth’s surface known as the Traveler. You, along with your fellow Guardians (be they players of in-game characters) have fought to protect the Traveler and the people of the Last City from a myriad of alien threats – the four-armed, scavengers called the Fallen; the Hive, necro-aliens infesting the Earth’s moon; machine-aliens named the Vex; and the imperialistic brutes of the Cabal. It is this fourth, last race that takes center stage in Destiny 2 – within ten minutes the Cabal have successfully invaded the Last City and sealed away the Traveler, depriving you of your Light – the source of power bestowed by the Traveler which grants you otherworldly abilities. Oh, and your immortality. That too.
The game’s plot centers around this premise – having been led via a vision to a shard of your god and regaining the power to fight back, you must retake the Last City, free the Traveler, defeat the Cabal’s Red Legion and take down their leader, Ghaul. The game’s campaign, taking place over roughly ten to fifteen hours, is extremely simple, devoid of depth and poorly paced, having you move very quickly in later portions of the game through planets which otherwise have a wealth of content to explore. Yet, despite such grievous issues, it is far more filling than the campaign of the original Destiny, in large part because despite all its flaws, Destiny 2 conveys what’s being done as opposed to its predecessor, where you’re presented the things your character is doing. In particular the game’s lore on various locations, characters and events, present in its predecessor almost only through Grimoire Cards accessible via a companion app has now been corrected in the second game, with the lore being present as fleshed-out dialogue during missions (which changes depending on the race of your character and whether you’re a returning player) and scannable items in the in-game world. This is much more accessible and personal, something that consistently grabs the players attention as they stumble upon previously unknown information which might embellish a known topic, answer a lingering question or, as is often the case in the Destiny games’ storytelling, pose entirely new ones.
What’s always been a solid delivery for the Destiny series is the gameplay itself. Players choose from one of three classes – the headstrong Titan, the cunning Hunter or the empowered Warlock. From there, you have access to three subclasses, which change the class’ primary element (Void, Solar or Arc) and shake up the gameplay through a unique super move and various perks or changes to the core concept. While players may find one play style to their liking above all others, each class and subclass feels distinct and rewarding to play. As this game is primarily a shooter, you’ll use many, many guns – mostly of varying types separated into Kinetic, Energy (which are the same type of guns as Kinetic Weapons but with an elemental modifier) and Power (separate in type and application – big weapons for big threats) Weapons. Finding a load-out you like and sticking to it is difficult because of the game’s system of progression, wherein the average strength of all equipped gear will decide the power of gear acquired later. Without proper foresight and planning, you can easily lock yourself into a high-powered gun or armor piece of the wrong type, which delays progression in the game until you happen to get the things you need and work your way back up again.
What’s worth noting however is that even in these instances where you’re artificially given a hurdle to climb, there’s such a wealth of content to undertake whether by type or place that you’ll likely never burn out on anything as you play. Within any of the four planets that serve as the games’ settings, you have your main campaign missions chronicling the Red War, supplementary Adventures and post-game Quests – additionally, there are Public Events which appear at set intervals within the game world as freeform goals to complete, Regional Chests to find and collect and Lost Sectors to explore and clear. In addition, there’s Player Versus Player (PVP) game modes, Strike missions (undertaken by a team of three players), the weekly Nightfall Strike (one of the Strikes within the game set on a timer, with modifiers to gain back time and change gameplay) and the six player Raid, a multi-stage trial requiring geared, capable players to complete various complex tasks to progress. The sheer enormity of ways to progress in the game means that at any stage of play, you’re acquiring valuable loot for your adventures such as the highly sought after Exotics, weapons and armor with unique perks that can drastically alter styles of play. Such a large amount of content – none of which feels overly repetitive or specifically there as padding – means that no two players will gear the same and should you ever get bored with how you’re playing the game, you can change things up and still feel as rewarded there as you were before.
As a long-time player of the series, having seem the ups and downs of the Destiny series, Destiny 2 represents a fresh start and the best foot forward for the franchise. It’s not perfect but it isn’t built on fundamentally broken components like its predecessor was, and as it grows and develops in the coming years, Destiny 2 will remain a heartfelt apology to fans of the series and an example of how Bungie has learned from the experience and wishes to move forward – with purpose and clarity. And, well, you know my thoughts on that already. If there were ever a time to say this, it’s now, at such a crucial time for the series: